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Notre Dame Football: Please Welcome Malik Zaire Home

The university graduate deserves our open arms, not our scorn.

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Texas v Notre Dame

Malik Zaire is coming back to Notre Dame to throw during its March 22 Pro Day, according to various reports.

The mere fact that Zaire, who opted to play his graduate year with the Florida Gators, would return rankles some Notre Dame Fighting Irish fans. Everett Golson, who also threw at Notre Dame’s 2016 Pro Day after playing his graduate year with the Florida State Seminoles, elicited a similar mixed reaction.

I welcome Zaire’s return, as I welcomed Golson’s re-emergence. Both of these men gave four years of effort to the Notre Dame football team and worked hard enough to earn degrees.

Perhaps welcoming an alumnus home isn’t enough for you. So here’s a second reason: Zaire was an amazing ambassador for Notre Dame when he was here.

In the midst of a contentious quarterback battle, Zaire is smiling and cheerful in welcoming Kellen McCord, a nine-year-old battling stage IV neuroblastoma. He is the one who sheds his jersey so Kellen can feel part of the Red Army and doesn’t hesitate when Kellen asks Zaire if he can keep the uniform. (Kellen is now in recovery, thankfully.)

And who could forget his close relationship with Allison Silva’s fourth graders from the Taylor Leadership Academy of Stockton, Calif.? When Silva made her first trip to Notre Dame in 2015, she sought out Zaire to Facetime with her students.

Zaire’s presence is also going to help the other Notre Dame offensive players. They all took snaps with Zaire; some even caught balls of his. While they haven’t had that rhythm for a year, it must be preferable to taking throws from someone they’ve never worked with. (Brandon Wimbush cannot help at Pro Day, in case you’re wondering. DeShone Kizer has got a NFL job, so he’s out too.)

I also thinks its speaks well of Coach Brian Kelly. Zaire didn’t mince words when asked about his decision to transfer by Irish Sports Talk:

After I graduated, I felt like my time at Notre Dame came to an end. I’d rather put my career in my hands, not really let Coach Kelly dictate that anymore. You guys saw, for instance on TV, what it was like being around a guy like that. I didn’t want my fifth year, my last year being held in control by that factor.

Kelly is taking the higher road by re-opening doors to Zaire. I would be disappointed if he let a personality conflict impede an athlete’s pursuit of their NFL dream.

Zaire needs help. Since his outstanding game against Texas in 2015, he hasn’t produced on the field like he or any Irish fan hoped. He’s going to throw at Notre Dame’s Pro Day as well as at Florida’s.

“I need all the eyes and optics I can get to show why I belong in the conversation,” he told Irish247.

I wish him all the best of luck — and I hope other Irish fans do too.